Family members who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 terror attacks expressed shock, disappointment and frustration over Monday’s sudden collapse of the resumption of the 9/11 pretrial hearings.
“We spend more time talking about and planning meals than in court!” exclaimed Adele Welty, who was one of eight people brought to the base on Saturday from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., to watch the proceedings.
Her son Tim, 34, was a New York City firefighter, and she’s been an outspoken activist and opponent of the death penalty with 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrow, an advocacy group.
Welty declared the claim by four of the alleged 9/11 plotters that a new defense team translator had worked at a CIA “black site” a “bomb shell,” and herself suspicious by the development.
“It’s either the biggest coincidence in the world or someone messed up,” she said. “There’s so much that we don’t know and will never know.”
It was a first trip to the hearings at Guantánamo for each of the family members. They were chosen by Pentagon lottery, and hosted by the office of the Chief War Crimes Prosecutor, which had for a time decided to discontinue visits until more progress was expected in the death-penalty prosecution of the accused 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and four alleged accomplices.
“I pray that there’ll be an end in sight,” said Julie Boryczewski, whose brother Martin, 29, a Cantor Fitzgerald trader, was killed at the World Trade Center. The trial, she said, would set “a precedent for the rest of the world and this really strange, evil population,” an apparent reference to al-Qaida. “We know they’re watching.”
She watched the brief morning session from a spectators’ gallery behind the court and was surprised by the flesh-and-blood appearance of the five accused terrorists. She had imagined they’d look like “big monsters,” she said. “But there’s nothing to them. My 96-year-old Polish grandmother could kick their ass, could run circles around them.”
And she survived the Dachau concentration camp in World War II, Boryczewski said.
“I know the wheels of justice are slow,” said Joel Shapiro whose wife Sareve Dukat, 53, was killed at the World Trade Center where she worked at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.
Shapiro, who’s a volunteer World Trade Center Memorial docent, wondered, after the alleged plotters circuitous path to justice, “Can we really at the end of the day use the legal process to ever get closure out of this?”
Asked what he’d like to do about the situation, he replied: “I’d like to take them out and shoot them. But it’s a visceral response.”
Kevin Ryan, a retired Port Authority police officer who helped recover bodies from the World Trade Center, declared, “the whole process seems convoluted. It’s very frustrating. Here we are 14 years later and there’s still no trial in sight. I want to see some movement toward resolution.”
Ryan said from what he’d seen of the brief morning proceedings, the plotters had learned how to use the “American legal system very well. It’s absolute insanity. It just seems like a big dog-and-pony show at this point.”
Robert Mathai, a philosophy student at Tufts University whose father was killed on 9/11, said he was relieved that Monday’s revelation didn’t happen at the trial itself because it could have derailed it.
“Do it correctly rather than do it quickly,” he said, adding that he would prefer a protracted pretrial period if it could lead to a shorter trial. Besides, Mathai added: “If you’re going to project power around the world, you’d better have a higher moral high ground.”
Mathai accompanied his mother Teresa on the trip. Before they came, she said, she visited the grave of her husband, Joseph, 49, a high-tech executive who was killed at the World Trade Center, to tell him they’d watch a hearing at Guantánamo.
What would she tell him on his return? “It’s ongoing. Stay tuned.”
Follow @CarolRosenberg on Twitter
The Miami Herald guide to the Sept. 11 war crimes trial here.